HARARE – United nations (UN) secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has urged Zimbabwean authorities to put politics aside amid a worsening food crisis, saying the smattering of aid which has reached the impoverished country was making a difference.
This comes after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai wrote to Ban on February 17, highlighting that Zimbabwe’s chronic food shortages have been compounded by politicisation of aid that has seen President Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace and his governing Zanu PF party deny the famine-struck opposition supporters vital aid.
In a reply to Tsvangirai seen by the Daily News yesterday, a top humanitarian official Edmund Mulet, the UN peacekeeping deputy chief in Ban’s office, assured the MDC leader that the world body will continue to assist drought-torn Zimbabwe even after threats by Mugabe at the AU summit in Addis Ababa in February to pull out of the world body if the UN Security Council was not reformed.
Tsvangirai had said in his letter to Ban that Zimbabwe wants to be part of the international community and Mugabe’s threats must be ignored by all right-thinking members of the international community, and also urged the UN to ignore attempts by the nonagenarian to mislead the world that everything is okay here.
This comes after earlier last month the UN scaled up Zimbabwe’s emergency humanitarian appeal to $350 million, in the face of dwindling donations, to aid 2,8 million affected by the devastating drought.
Mulet said Tsvangirai’s concerns on the UN’s humanitarian response had been brought to Ban’s attention.
“The UN is committed to supporting national and regional partners in southern Africa as the region deals with the impact of the unprecedented drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon,” Mulet said in his letter to Tsvangirai.
“As noted in the series of statements released by the office of the UN resident coordinator in Zimbabwe since the onset of the drought, the UN system’s humanitarian response in the country, as elsewhere in the country, has been guided by the four humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.
“The UN works closely with the government and its designated institutions to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people with the greatest need, regardless of their political or other affiliations and beliefs with full transparency and accountability.
“The UN agencies and their humanitarian partners involved in the emergency response to the drought have adhered to these humanitarian principles and have put in place mechanisms to ensure they are respected.
“The UN will continue to call on humanitarian and development partners for their support and cooperation in reaching the most affected communities.”
The former prime minister alleged in the damning letter to the UN chief that Mugabe’s government and Zanu PF officials were abusing food donations from international agencies.
“Various Zanu PF and government officials have threatened those who do not support them with starvation,” Tsvangirai’s letter to Ban said.
“The First Lady (Grace Mugabe) has openly abused donations and even national loans from Brazil, for example, to campaign for her party and herself.
“Despite this partisanship, however, Zimbabweans have benefited much from their association with the international community. It follows, therefore, that Zimbabwe must remain part of the international community,” the MDC leader said.
“Over the years, the UN, through its various agencies, has come to the aid of Zimbabweans in need. Through the (UN) World Food Programme and other international relief organisations, the UN has over the years moved in to avert starvation among Zimbabwe’s needy communities.”
With almost three million citizens facing starvation, Tsvangirai said UN agencies “must put in place mechanisms to ensure food aid they donate is not distributed in a partisan manner.”
UN resident and UNDP resident representative Bishow Parajuli has said the drought conditions in many parts of Zimbabwe have been unprecedented and have severely increased the vulnerability of the poor, depriving them of their livelihoods, including livestock and agricultural production, as well as access to water, nutrition, health and education services
Addressing hundreds of people at Man’a Growth Point in Gutu recently, Tsvangirai urged MDC youths to resist any attempts to deny them food aid.
“Now when the food has been availed, they start to say they want Zanu PF supporters only, as if they are the only ones with stomachs,” Tsvangirai said.
“Who does not need food? …we all need it, we must share it equally and in a fair manner.
“When they try to sideline you, refuse and grab the food and see if they will arrest all of us for demanding food. We want the world to know that people in Zimbabwe were arrested for demanding their food.
“I urge you youths to defend the people and stop this. You should make sure that the food is distributed fairly and Mugabe should know that the food does not belong to Zanu PF but to government.”